Robin Dance

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Oh, lovely day

Posted by on Feb 15, 2018 | 4 comments


Today is Valentine’s Day, one of my favorite days of the year, one of the happiest reasons to celebrate life: it’s all about love.


I am wearing hot pink shoes now, but I think I’ll be changing into the ones dipped in glitter, gold and a thousand points of light. A thousand reflections of love.


Shoes can say a lot about a person; not always, but sometimes. Today mine tell you I’m feeling sassy and defiant. Sassy speaks for itself, but the defiant part is me telling Cruel Things they will not be the boss of me. Not today.


There has been a long-standing tradition in my family: a tea party on Valentine’s Day. It all started over 23 years ago when my mother-in-law asked me if we could host a mother-daughter Valentine Tea Party. As a mama to four boys, she was longing for girly things something awful. Her first grandchild, our daughter, paved a way to all manner of pink and frilly.


For almost two decades we hosted a Valentine Tea. My heart swells and aches at the memories.


Sarah will not be with us today. She’s home, confined to bed, her love of almost 65 years caring for her around the clock. To me, dementia has stolen the best parts of her, but her one and only still sees that girl he fell in love with. He will tell you he loves her more now than ever. He means it. When he looks at her and tells her “You’re so pretty,” your heart will split in two.


So, I’m raising my fist in defiance, a small and almost silly gesture, but significant to me in that I WILL carry on this tradition because it means something important. Geography and circumstance force a different type of Valentine Tea but its heart beats just the same.


Love. Friendship. The company of women drawn close. 


I have been working for four days straight to get ready–not because anyone else cares or expects that, but a) because nothing like a party to kick my housekeeping into high gear, and 2) the effort is a love note to my guests.


The work that precedes opening my home to others is worship. It’s an offering and opportunity–yes! That’s it: OYTO! It’s my personal battle cry springing to action, enlisting others to help. We weren’t meant to go it alone, to carry the world on our shoulders.  But we do this, don’t we? I’m trying to break that old habit because the joy is amplified and the weight lightened when sisters bear the load never intended for one. There’s mutual blessing in the service, the offering, the worship. And this is the kindness of God in this season; He affirms the “who” and the “how” and I remember all over again there’s no “I” in team or teamwork, and laughing with other people is much more fun than laughing alone.



If you could explode from joy, I’d be splattered all over my house.


Yesterday was perpetual motion, and by the time I fell into bed I felt it all. My bones were tired, but my spirit was…satisfied. I’m surprised satisfaction feels so good.


I thought about Sarah often throughout the day, all of it a testament to her strength and resolve. Teary moments threatened a few times, but I banished them quickly. There’s a time for all that, but not during the Valentine Tea. In a gesture to bind together old tradition with new, I read the intro from Emilie Barnes, “An Invitation to Tea.” It perfectly expresses the heart of our Tea, and Sarah had always included it.


I wish I had taken more pictures, but here’s the thing about that: I haven’t figured out how to be fully present and live behind a camera. It’s one or the other but not both. The more accurate thought is I wish I had more pictures, but my mind’s eye still sees each precious face and my soul remembers every connection.

And, this, to me, is where Body Life is so beautiful–I don’t think we ever necessarily talked about God but we flat out lived it. Not to pat ourselves on the back – good googlie-mooglie, heaven forbid that! – but sometimes we need to recognize that living the gospel IS preaching the gospel, and all at once this little tea party tradition sparked something new in my heart, and I’m curious if it will smolder to ashes or blaze into fire.


Time tells that kind of thing. If it’s the real deal it’ll burn.




Can you scooch over here and let me admit something? I’m not quite sure how to say it, and I sincerely, truly, really really hope you hear me….


I’m worried some people who find their way to these words will feel their eyes turning green. Maybe they’ll wish they could’ve been there or feel void in their own lives, or maybe they’ll compare home or friends or gifts, or, I don’t know what, but click away from the page feeling less than or lonely.


If that’s you, darling…and I say this gently but firmly: stop it.


That’s the enemy of your heart talking, and I promise, his is a convincing voice. Don’t believe the lies.


I’ve felt the angst of all that. I’ve swum those dark waters.


I have wasted years wanting things never intended for me.


Wasted. Years.


I loathe a victim mentality. What I hadn’t realized was me envying or coveting what someone else had was me playing the victim. Blech. The wallow is an ugly thing and accomplishes the work of your enemy by distracting you from the Lord has for you.


For you.


Be the one to BE the one. Ask a neighbor to come over and serve her leftovers for lunch; she cares more about time together than what it is you’re serving. Get a group of people together to go see a movie and dessert after. Stop wanting what other people have and create community by gathering together the people who are already around you.


Bloom where you’re planted. If you can’t be with the ones you “love,” love the ones you’re with. Okay…so now I’m resorting to song titles and clichés, but if the shoe fits wear it. (I’ll stop now…. ~ smile ~ )


Give from your void.




We could mine the spiritual dimensions of all this til the end of time – thoughts on contentment and joy and satisfaction and a million other things, but I’ll leave it at give to give and not give to get. I’m convinced that giving to give (glory to God, blessing to others…) brings greater gain than giving to get could ever accomplish.


The Valentine Tea Party is about giving who I am and what I have, which gives glory to God. The gain to me is an abundant satisfaction in learning that me being me is more than enough. It’s what the Lord has been trying to teach me for a long, long while. He wouldn’t have gone to the trouble of, you know, creating me, if I didn’t matter to this world.


The same applies to you.


Click away knowing that who you are is more than enough, and get busy discovering who and what it is that God is prompting in you.










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Heart-shaped :: A Valentine’s Day Feature at {in}courage

Posted by on Feb 14, 2015 | 1 comment

A blessing to women

Valentine’s Day isn’t about romance or passion to me. Instead, it’s a blur of fizzy affections tethered first to grade school then later to a woman of valor.

I grew up in a Mayberry-esque town before the internet or big box craft stores were born.

They were halcyon days, when a teacher would hand out construction paper, scissors, glitter and glue, then light a creative match and set our imaginations on fire.

We’d transform our cereal or shoe boxes into treasure boxes. Then, we’d snake up and down the rows of desks, slipping our Valentines into bedazzled boxes, eager to sift and analyze our own.

Simpler times.

When I got older there was a season when Valentine’s Day took on a shroud of romance, but even when I started dating the man who would become my husband, I never liked the idea of a retail-imposed, gift-giving mandate. Except that one time in college, under Valentine’s Day pressure but totally broke he came up with my favorite gift of all time — that was true love.


When my firstborn was three years old, Valentine’s Day changed. It happened when my mother-in-lawlove (MIL) asked if we could have a Valentine Tea. My husband is one of four boys and my in-laws had been waiting for a granddaughter for almost 30 years. They had ideas.

Our mother-daughter tea evolved over time. Initially I hosted the tea. Our menu: heart-shaped PB&Js, strawberry Jello Jigglers, and Valentine M&Ms. For the moms: chicken salad and strawberry cream puffs. In those early years we’d make a craft, plus a card for the dads, and read a special book.

Our Valentine Tea Party became a much-anticipated annual event growing larger each year. When it outgrew our dining room, I raised the white flag. That was the year we moved it to my mother-in-law’s house and it became a family event — the four girl cousins inviting their very best friend (and her mom), my sisters-in-law, my MIL and her best friend.

We’d sit around the dining room table for hours, three generations at school in a sacred space, no one in a hurry to leave.

Three constants remained over the 16 years we hosted our Valentine Tea: a darling invitation, Noni’s famous butter mints and surcies for the girls and their mamas.

Valentine Tea Party Essentials

When we had our Valentine Tea in 2012 — a little late because it was the year I was living abroad — I had no idea it would be our last….




Please click to continue reading Heart-shaped over at incourage,
a very special personal story.

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Sweet Treats for Valentine’s Day!

Posted by on Feb 5, 2014 | 1 comment

Never have I sent more snail mail than when my babies went off to college.  I’m pretty sure they’d tell you their mama is the Queen of Random Gift-giving.

I’ve been gathering things for their Valentine’s baskets (just like Easter but in February and sans the basket).  Much of it is snack-related, the luxuries and niceties starving college students don’t often indulge.

If you’re shopping online for Valentine’s gifts, I stumbled across a few bargains today I thought worth passing along quickly (remember why bloggers use affiliate links and hope you shop through their site?  That applies today.).

Sweet Treats Collection from DaySpring


If you order by TODAY, Lisa Leonard promises shipping in time for Valentine’s Day AND receive a $20 gift with the code SWEETS!!

Lisa Leonard Valentine Gifts


DaySpring has almost its entire Sweet Treats Collection (pictured in the above collage) on sale at half-price.  You can pick up the tote, mug, stainless steel water bottle, journal, or memo cube for under $5.00/each and the 10 notecards are only $1.39 (say WHAT?!).


I love you to the moon and back pillowThis pillow from Red Envelope?  Well, I found it when I clicked their “Surprise Deals” tabs, but it’s stinking adorable for everyday.  (Careful…Red Envelope can be a time suck….)


Of course, you can always just pop over to Amazon where you can pretty much find anything else you might want to give (or receive).


YOUR TURN:  Have you found last-minute Valentine’s Day bargains?  DO share in comments!!

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Posted by on Feb 14, 2012 | 5 comments

“Not necessarily better or worse,
just different.”
~ me

It’s Valentine’s Day.

It’s Valentine’s Day, but it doesn’t f e e l like Valentine’s Day, and in fact, little feels like it always has.  Gone is routine.  Familiarity vanished.


Try to imagine landing in a place where e v e r y t h i n g is new.  You’re seeing people, places and things for the first time ~ all the time ~ so there are no touchstones, no landmarks, to remind you of where you are.

Except you know where you are, but that’s about all you have to hold onto.

Well, that, and GPS, God’s greatest invention for Me-and-My-People who can’t find our way out of a bucket.

The converse side of all that is people are people, places are places, and things are things–not better or worse, just different.  So in that sense, all these new things ARE familiar. 

And, this, my friends, is why my husband would tell you I’m complicated. 

It’s Valentine’s Day and it’s snowing...a first for this ol’ Southern gal who still has a few Michael Simon heart-embellished sweaters in her closet.  Back home.

For 16 years, I’ve co-hosted a Valentine Tea Party with my mother-in-law, Sarah, and daughter.  What began as a timid suggestion by Sarah has flourished into cherished tradition for the women in my family and a few close friends. 

Five thousand miles Almost eight thousand kilometers between us makes this year’s Valentine Tea an ImpossibiliTea.  And this, this of all things, is my first taste of homesick.  Bitter on tongue’s tip.  Ache in my heart.

Distance between Chattanooga and Burghausen, Bavaria (Germany)
For me, Valentine’s Day isn’t roses and romance (though we usually go out for or cook a candlelight dinner); instead, it’s a day to candy and treat my children, and to celebrate the women in our family…three generations strong

We brunch.  We eat off my mother-in-law’s delicate fine china, pink Depression glass and gorgeous sterling silver.  We tell stories.  We laugh.  We listen.  We hear.  We “please” and “thank you” and restrain ourselves from licking our plates clean, because manners matter no matter how good the raspberry mousse is this year.  I mean that year.  We’d exchange surcie’s ~ little love gifts ~ and some of us have been known to clap approval and squeal with delight.  ~smile~

S i g h.

I can’t seem to crack time’s code.  Monday, Tuesday, Friday–does it matter?  Not really.  My laptop clock remains set on Eastern Standard Time; it orients me to what my children might be doing without having mentally to calculate the difference.  The wall clock strikes Bavarian time, orienting me here

Because here is where I am.

So, today no Valentine Tea tradition.  Instead, we’ll practice hospitaliTy to strangers–we’ve invited three young work associates of Tad’s for dinner; translators from America and Great Britain and a German intern. 

People around a table, talking, listening, and hopefully laughing.

See?  Not necessarily better or worse than my 16-year Valentine’s tradition.  Just different.

I’m beyond thankful to be able to say I love being here; Skype, Facebook, emails and Twitter keep me connected to family and friends back home and allow me to SEE and talk to my babies.  I even like the challenge of living outside my comfort zone.  But, still, my steps have an uneasy traction, sliding on ice instead of skating on steel blades.  And the language barrier–I feel like I’m living in the shadow of Babel’s half-built tower(Though I should add many Germans speak at least a little English and everyone I’ve met has been gracious to extend kindness not condemnation when I shyly stumble over my words.)

It’s 14:00 CET (Central European Time) on Valentine’s Day and snow has been falling for almost seven hours; I think the highest temperature we’ve seen since arriving two weeks ago is -4°C (25°F), and the snow hadn’t yet melted from last week!  In less than three hours my husband will ride his bike home from work.

Believe it or not, he’ll likely say about that, “It’s different but better.”

blink blink.

* * * * *

In April, I’ll head back to the States; in May we’ll have a mother-daughter tea with our family’s newest addition, Miss Abigail.  Our Valentine tradition will move into Spring (at least this year), and again we’ll circle around a table with everything that’s necessary.

Not necessarily better or worse, just different.

Which I’m beginning to see is more than fine.


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All we’re missin’ is a cape and a tiara…

Posted by on Mar 7, 2011 | 2 comments


"I'm fairly certain that given a cape and a nice tiara,
I we could save the world."

~ Leigh Standley, creative mastermind behind Curly Girl Designs

Submitted to I Heart Faces weekly photo challenge, this week asked for "Best Faces in February."  Nancy, my mother-in-law's best friend, was the center piece of this year's Valentine Tea Party invitation.  It might just be my favorite over the past 16 years, so it only seemed natural to wanna double the fun!


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My favorite family tradition

Posted by on Feb 11, 2011 | 3 comments

Ever wondered what you get when you cross "shy" with "exhibitionist"?  



because I love what I'm talking about so ding-dang much I have to TELL you, not write about it.

Curious?  Or are you the kind-hearted type who won't leave me hanging on a limb to dangle ALL BY MYSELF?  

Pleaseclick through to (in)courage today.  It might just spur you on to love and good deeds ;).


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